20 Years ago this month, Michael T. Gilbert unleashed "Mr. Monster" onto the world. Later this year Atomeka Press and Gilbert will bring Mr. Monster back to comic shops in the form of "Mister Monster: Worlds War Two," an all new 48-page one shot.
To help celebrate this anniversary, CBR News asked Michael T. Gilbert to do something a little odd - interview his most famous creation. He was more than happy to oblige. Here now is Michael T. Gilbert with Mr. Monster himself.
By Michael T. Gilbert
"Mister Monster: Worlds War Two" cover by Alex Horley
Introduction: High atop Slaughter Mountain, where the rain never stops, stately Stearn Mansion stands silhouetted against the blood-red moon. This is the home of Dr. Strongfort Stearn, known throughout the world as … Mr. Monster!!
From this lofty perch, Doc Stearn peers unflinchingly into the black abyss below. For it is Mr. Monster's mission to search out evil -- and destroy it! His beautiful partner, Kelly Friday, assists him.
MICHAEL T. GILBERT: Doc, word has it that you're celebrating your 20th year in comics this summer. Any special plans?
MR. MONSTER: Bloody hell, Gilbert! Of course! I'm pencilled in to quell a plague of moon-monsters in September. Then there's that pesky Martian invasion to deal with. Oh, and I promised Kelly I'd mulch the garden.
MTG: Mulch the garden? That doesn't sound like much of a job for the World's Greatest Monster-Fightert.
MR. MONSTER: Clearly, you've never seen my lawn!
MTG: Tell me more about these invaders from Mars, Doc.
MR. MONSTER: What's to tell? Yet another bloodthirsty alien invasion, led by a mad dictator with a brain harvested from a 60 year-old corpse. I get one of those every third Thursday.
Besides, why do you want to know, Gilbert? You wrote the darn thing!
MTG: Er…yes. Ahem! But I'm supposed to be interviewing you, and, and…
MR. MONSTER: Yes, yes. You do seem the type who'd feign ignorance to sell a few copies of a book. Get on with it, man!
MTG: Care to tell the fans about the comic, Doc?
MR. MONSTER: Certainly! "Mister Monster: Worlds War Two" tells the true tale of a Martian invasion I battled in 1969. That was back when I was still learning the ropes.
Bloody Martians took over the Earth. Enslaved everyone. Death-rays, flying-saucers… the works! Those monsters had it pretty cushy -- until they crossed me!!
It was in all the papers, you know.
MTG: Actually, Doc, I don't remember reading about that …
MR. MONSTER: Hmph! Another government cover-up! Embarrassed that they fumbled the ball. Well, you can read the entire story in "Mister Monster: Worlds War Two."
MTG: I did, Doc. Y'know, parts of it remind me of that scary old sci-fi movie, "Invaders From Mars." Oh, and those gory "Mars Attacks!" cards, too! Man, they gave me the creeps when I was kid!
MR. MONSTER: Actually many of those old trading cards were taken straight from news photos of my battle with the invaders. The paintings of dogs melted by Martian ray-guns and such all happened! But later on the FBI strong-armed the publishers. Made 'em say they'd made it all up. As if!
MR. MONSTER: Frankly, Dave Elliott, Garry Leach and that new boy, Ross Richie at Atomeka Press are placing their very lives at risk by publishing the unvarnished truth in "Mister Monster: Worlds War Two!" Elliott and Leach are the chaps behind A-1 magazine, you know. Good fellows, those, even if they're not Americans!
MTG: Er, I have heard some nice things about the British.
MR. MONSTER: Exaggerated, I'm sure. Remind me to tell you about the time I conjured up George Washington's ghost. He wasn't a big fan of the redcoats either…
MTG: About the book, Doc…
MR. MONSTER: Oh, yes. 48 pages, prestige format on superb paper for $6.99. A pittance! Alex Horley and Dave Dorman painted the covers, with stunning interior color by Laurie Smith. Oh, and Ken Bruzenak lettered the story. Good ol' Ken. He's my favorite!
MTG: Very sharp package, Doc. And George Freeman did the finished art over my layouts. You remember George's outstanding work on Elric and Marvel's Jack Of Hearts?
MR. MONSTER: Of course! Quite striking.
He's a foreigner too, isn't he? Canadian, I believe. Hmph!
MTG: What's wrong with Canada, Doc?
MR. MONSTER: Well, they're…not… not American, blast it all!
MTG: So? Your dad, the Golden Age Mr. Monster, was Canadian. Remember that coverless golden age comic I picked up in 1971 -- the one from 1947? "Super Duper Comics?"
MR. MONSTER: Certainly! That comic featured the only story starring the golden age Mr. Monster. You liked it so much, you swiped the character.
MR. MONSTER: Tomato, to-matto. Bloody Hell, Gilbert! Don't you ever do anything original? I feel like "Second-hand Rose," here!
In any case, how does Canada fit into this discussion?
MTG: Well, "Super Duper Comics" was a Canadian comic book. And that story was drawn by Fred Kelly -- a Canadian cartoonist.
MR. MONSTER: Hmph! Say, whatever became of old Fred anyway?
MTG: Funny you should ask, Doc. Roy Thomas wondered the same thing. So when he devoted the latest issue of "Alter Ego" to comics of Canada's golden age, he asked me to write about Fred Kelly.
MR. MONSTER: I'm well aware of the article! I host your monthly "Mr. Monster's Comic Crypt" column, you know.
MTG: Trouble is, there wasn't much to write about. Fred got out of comics in the late 40s and pretty much disappeared. No one knew if he was still alive. It's a mystery I've wondered about ever since I discovered that first Mr. Monster story 33 years ago.
MR. MONSTER: And the point of this boring digression is…?
MTG: I'm getting to it, Doc! A couple of weeks ago, a Canadian fan wrote to tell me he'd tracked down Fred Kelly! Can you believe it?
MR. MONSTER: What th -- ?
MTG: I hear ya, Doc. I was speechless too! But there's more. Fred, who's a spry 82, plans to attend his first comic convention!
MR. MONSTER: Hell's Bells! Incredible news, Gilbert! Book us a flight!
MTG: Way ahead of you, Doc! My wife Janet and I are guests at the Toronto Comicon. "Alter Ego" editor Roy Thomas will be there, too. The con runs from June 18-20, and Fred's scheduled to appear June 19 on a Canadian golden age comic book panel featuring Ed Furness and Jerry Lazare.
MR. MONSTER: Again with the Canadians?!
MTG: Er, sorry, Doc. But it'll be a great convention. And the chance to actually meet Fred Kelly is just too great to pass up!
MR. MONSTER: Quite! And on my 20th anniversary, no less. An extraordinary coincidence!
MTG: I'll say! And speaking of your anniversary Doc, maybe you should give our Comic Book Resources readers a little background …
MR. MONSTER: Oh, very well. If you recall, my first story came out in Pacific Comics' "Vanguard Illustrated" no. 7 in the summer of 1984. "The Case Of The Reluctant Werewolf," was a most blood-curdling tale! Who wrote it, anyway?
MTG: Blush! Me, Doc! Laid it out too. And after Bill Loebs did the finished art, I colored it. Blood-curdling, eh?
MR. MONSTER: Get over yourself Gilbert! The story wasn't THAT good! And you're not the one who fought that Werewolf biker-gang that issue! I did!! A paper cut makes you queasy!
MTG: Moving right along…
In the last 20 years we've seen dozens of Mr. Monster comics, three book collections, t-shirts and even a really cool Mr. Monster statuette last year. How do you explain your longevity, Doc?
MR. MONSTER: Well, terrific art and stories, for one thing…
MTG: Thanks, Doc! Blush!
MR. MONSTER: Ahem! Let me repeat: Get over yourself, Gilbert!
I was referring to your guest-artists, you egomaniac! Bill Loebs, Dave Gibbons, Alan Moore, Brian Buniak, Sam Kieth, Keith Giffen, Don Simpson, Bernie Wrightson, Bill Wray, Mike Mignola, Steve Bissette, Dave Dorman and Simon Bisley all did spectacular work on my comics.
Frankly, Gilbert, you can use all the help you can get!
MTG: Say, Doc. Is it my imagination, or are you putting on a little weight …?
Say, speaking of weight, remember Mama Globin? What a massive fiend she was!
MR. MONSTER: Indeed! Her fiendish son Hemo-boy was even worse! And then there was the Demon Of Destiny Drive! Talk about blood and gore!
MTG: Sigh! Good times…
MR. MONSTER: Say, I wouldn't mind reading those stories again. Know where I can pick up back issues? Obviously, you're too cheap to send me any comps!
MTG: Back issues? Golly, Doc. I'd hate to use an educational forum like this for commercial purposes, but anyone who wants a free copy of my Eeek-mail catalogue can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
MR. MONSTER: email@example.com ?
MTG: Yep! firstname.lastname@example.org
MR. MONSTER: Hmph! Let no one accuse you of crass commercialism, Gilbert!
MTG: Anything else you want to mention before we go, Doc?
MR. MONSTER: Well, Ron and Justine Fontes just published their new "Terminal Diner" book -- kind of a magical black-humored horror anthology. Inside, I tell a particularly twisted 6-page horror story called "Square Eggs!" Frankly, I can't believe you wrote and drew something as sick as that, Gilbert!
After that, I've got a little fracas with some pesky moon-monsters pencilled in for later this year.
MTG: Oh, yeah. I almost forgot! Ronn Sutton and I are drawing that story for the for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund benefit book -- "Even More Fund Comics." My script also features Ronn's hero, 5-Alarm Charlie. Ronn's wife, Janet Hetherington, is pitching in too.
Say, Doc, did I mention that Ronn hails from Canada, too?
MR. MONSTER: Bloody Hell, Gilbert! More Canucks?! Can't you find any red-blooded Americans to draw my stories?
MTG: I'll work on that, Doc. But in the meantime your readers will love "MR. MONSTER: Worlds War Two" from Atomeka. It's guaranteed to fry your eyeballs!
MR. MONSTER: Ulp! That reminds me. I'm late for my 4:00! There's a giant man-eating eyeball about to devour Cleveland! So if you'll excuse me…